Spontaneously breaking out into song and dance every now and then would make life a lot more interesting. Unfortunately, that’s only ever allowed in movies and music videos… or if you’re a musical theatre student. They do it all the time. It’s a sickness.
There have been some iconic dance numbers whose impact on pop culture has been so great, they’ve become mascots for the eras in which they were born. Aside from the innovative choreography that shaped them to be such wonders, the performers who executed them with expert commitment left a grasping mark on their audiences, and the accompanying music transports everyone back to the memory and mood of that scene.
Here are but a few worthy mentions. Some of the obvious greats such as Gene Kelly’s Singing In The Rain and the fight scene in West Side Story go without saying, but we’ve decided to unearth a few unsung dance moments which we deem to be underrated:
John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977)
If you don’t get John Travolta to dance in your movie, then you’re wasting a God given opportunity to make magic. From his fat suit-laden shimmy in Hairspray, his impromptu twist in Pulp Fiction, his jive in Look Who’s Talking Too, to his unforgettable coolness in Grease, Travolta’s physical prowess on the dance floor is set in stone. All our dads wanted to be Tony Manero back in their day, and some of them still have the suit and the gold medallion. The stylised disco dancing of this scene from Saturday Night Fever set the scene for discotheques all over the globe with none other than the genius of the Bee Gees playing in the background.
The Happy Dance from 500 Days of Summer (2009)
How do you let the world know you’ve just made love to a wonderful person? You infect the rest of the street with your giddiness and rope in a few animations and a marching band for a flash dance. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows off his moves in this indie classic to Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams – a feel-good song if there ever was one. Gordon-Levitt also proves to be a very eloquent dancer, and his performance makes the character entertaining, endearing and relatable, even with a cartoon bird on his shoulder.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982)
Oh Michael. You managed to make us get our groove on and scare the hell out of us at the same time. It’s almost indisputable that Michael Jackson was one of the greatest dancers of the 20th and 21st centuries. However, it was his collaboration with Michael Peters that propelled him to such success. Peters was responsible for the choreography of Thriller, and the video has been listed as the most successful and influential music video of all time in the Guinness World Records of 2006.
Channing Tatum in Magic Mike (2012)
If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – Channing Tatum is the John Travolta of today’s generation. He flaunts his mastery in Magic Mike, where several dance numbers leave us with our jaws on the floor, not just by how good the team of male strippers look, but by how precise and fluid Tatum’s movement is. It was hard to choose which dance to select for our list, so perhaps this film merits a mentioning of all its routines. A popular favourite is the team’s opening number of It’s Raining Men, where both costume and lighting very cleverly come into play with the exquisite choreography.
Chimney Sweepers in Mary Poppins (1964)
What’s Disney without a dance number? Dick Van Dyke redeemed himself for his horrifying cockney accent with this superb scene on the rooftops of Edwardian London. The choreography beautifully incorporates tap, gymnastics and pirouettes with startling precision and team work, and the obscured faces of the dancers adds to the collectivity of the troupe.
Audition in Flashdance (1983)
Finding out that a male body double, a gymnast and two other dancers had actually performed Jennifer Beals’ routine is the dance lover’s equivalent of finding out that Santa isn’t real. Nonetheless, the final audition scene in Flashdance encompasses so many traits that define the 80s.; the perm, the high leg leotard cut, the muscular figure, the leg warmers, and Irene Cara’s What A Feeling blasting in the background. It’s also an altogether exhilarating scene where perseverance and raw talent prevail, and the leaps and twirls never fail to get our adrenaline pumping.
So, which other dance scenes are your favourites? Let us know in the comment section below!